After winning the opener Bakersfield lost the second of three-game set at Lake Elsinore. They scored a run in the eighth inning to cut the deficit to 3-2 which turned out to be the final score. The Blaze offense was held to five hits on the night. Jamie Walczak took the loss despite a quality start. He allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits over six innings while striking out seven and walking four. Justice French threw two innings and gave up one run. The teams will play the rubber game of the series tonight.
On the base paths Billy Hamilton swiped two bags to bring his season total to 100. He walked in the fifth inning, stole second, and advanced to third on a throwing error. He led off the eighth with a single and stole second before scoring the final run of the game on a double play later that inning. Last season Hamilton was the first minor leaguer in over a decade to steal 100 bases. This year he duplicated that feat in 76 games played and 58 more remaining on the schedule.
Hamilton has been relentless on opposing defenses all season long. He’s been caught attempting to steal 29 times giving him a success rate of 77.5%. Of course he would not have been able to perform his feat so quickly had he not been able to reach base frequently. He’s done a tremendous job leading off the Blaze lineup by setting the table with a .327 average and .417 on-base pct. His speed also enables him to stretch hits with extra bases and he’s slugging .447 despite only one home run. 27 of his 104 hits have gone for extra bases including 9 triple, leaving only 77 singles and 48 walks. He’s basically running nearly every time second base is open and is very aggressive going after third.
One reason his average has jumped around .050’ from his current level versus last season has been a remarkable improvement in his plate discipline. He has 48 walks in 78 games thus far which is almost as many as he had all last season at Dayton (52 in 135G). His walk frequency last season actually wasn’t bad last season when he took a pass in 8.5% of his plate appearances. That rate has jumped all the way to 12.9% thus far in 2012. As a result his AVG/OBP differential is about 50% higher this season which is very good stuff for a leadoff hitter, especially someone with the ability to turn lead-off walks into a virtual triple like Hamilton. He’s also reduced his strikeout frequency from 21.8% last year down to 16.9% against higher level pitching. It’s no surprise that more balls in play give a huge boost to the average of someone with Hamilton’s speed.
In the field all of his action this season has been at shortstop. One item high on his agenda coming into the season was reducing his number of errors. Unfortunately progress with the leather had not matched improvement with the wood. He’s still committing them around the same rate. Since the beginning of 2011 he’s been charged with 63 E’s in 206 games, or once every 3.3 games on average, and has a fielding percentage of only .933. With rookie Zach Cozart holding down the Reds regular duties and slick-fielding Didi Gregorius hitting well in AA there is likely some speculation that a position change is in the future.
Hamilton is now the top–rated prospect remaining in the Reds developmental system. He was named California League MVP in their recent all-star game against the Carolina League. He’s also been selected to participate for the US team in the futures game during the MLB all-star festivities next week. Next up for this historical season is the all-time minor league record of 145 set by Vince Coleman in 1983. If Hamilton maintains his current rate he should end up around 175. A strong case can be made that this season Bakersfield fans are watching the most prolific base stealer in minor league history.
Other News from the Farm:
After a rain-shortened loss on Sunday Louisville came back to drop another one to visiting Indianapolis, 6-4, in fourteen innings. Kristopher Negron, Neftali Soto, Felix Perez, and Bill Rhinehart all had two hits for the Bats. All of their runs scored on three long balls. Soto and Rhinehart both went deep in the seventh inning and they tied the game on a solo shot in the eighth by Denis Phipps who recently returned from a rehab at Arizona. On the mound Pedro Villarreal got no decision from his quality start. He allowed three runs (one earned) on five hits in six plus innings. Nick Christiani started the final inning and allowed the game-winner for his fourth loss.
Tony Cingrani threw another gem in Pensacola’s 2-0 win at Jacksonville. The southpaw shut out the Suns on two hits over 6 2/3 innings while striking out nine and walking four. He’s now 3-1 with a 1.75 ERA for the Blue Wahoos. Justin Freeman retired all seven batters faced and struck out four of them to get the save.
Dayton scored two in the eighth from a two-run homer by Sean Buckley to come back for a 3-2 win at Bowling Green. Danny Vicioso went 2-3 with a walk and Yovan Gonzalez added two hits and an RBI. On the mound Jacob Johnson got no decision from his quality start, allowing two runs on seven hits while pitching six innings without a walk. Michael Dennhardt threw two scoreless innings for the win. Carlos Contreras finished out the ninth for the save.
Billings allowed three in the seventh at Missoula before losing 5-2. Beau Amaral had two hits and scored a run. Jesse Winker didn’t get a hit but reached three times via walks. Andrew Cisco threw the first three innings and allowed one run on four hits. Jose Amezcua was charged with four runs (three earned) in three innings and took the loss.
The AZL Reds were idle Monday and will host the AZL Rangers on Tuesday.
The DSL Reds came up short in a 3-2 loss at the DSL Orioles. Starter Franderlin Romero held the O’s to two runs in four innings while pitching around seven hits and a walk for the loss.